For years, Amazon has fought back against paid review services. Sites that allowed authors to purchase blocks of reviews by the hundreds or even thousands gave consumers a legitimate reason to be mistrustful of any reviews, and the case of bad behavior painting all indie authors with the same brush was all to real.
Amazon’s initial action wasn’t too popular with readers or authors, though, as their efforts at curbing fraudulent reviews also meant your college roommate or a co-worker might not be able to leave a review, no matter how honest those individuals were in their assessment of the book. Even book bloggers who live for reading and reviewing had difficulty leaving honest reviews; if their IP address was in any way connected to the author’s, the review could be blocked.
Now, the retailer is cracking down on one of the more legitimate ways to garner reviews, which is with a free or discounted item. Everyone from authors to third-party retailers has relied on the practice of giving set numbers of their items out to reviewers to try, but Amazon feels that the reviews won’t be entirely honest if there is an expectation of collaboration.
It will be interesting to see how this affects authors of any ilk, but especially Big Five publishers and services like NetGalley or instaFreebie. NetGalley and Penguin Random House’s First to Read function entirely as free ARC copy services; while they don’t demand that you review the book in order to receive the free copy, that expectation is there. In the case of NetGalley, it can cost an indie author hundreds of dollars to list even one book for distribution to book bloggers and readers.
According to one source, Amazon has already deleted over 500,000 reviews that it believed to be excessively positive in exchange for a free or discounted product.